Failing and being a Failure

Did this ever happen to you: You were so sure you were doing a great job at something, you even had evidence for your success, and then you found yourself utterly failing.

I have failed so many times lately in my new position as an executive director for a non-profit community centre, and I heard myself saying over and over again, “you are such a loser,” which of course brought negative feelings followed by negative actions with very poor results.

I made my act of failure mean that I myself was a failure. And that is a recipe for disaster.

What Failing Means

Remember the think-feel-act cycle? Your thoughts create your feelings and then your feelings drive your actions. Thoughts create feelings, not “failure.” So when failure seems to create a feeling that drives your action, it’s time to realize that between your apparent failure and your feeling, there was a thought. Failure doesn’t cause you to feel any emotion until you think something about it.

And truthfully, you can choose to decide what you make it mean. Crazy, isn’t it? But true.

When it comes to failure, the problem is not the fail, but what you make the fail mean. When you fail and you think, “I’m never going to figure this out, this is impossible, I don’t have enough discipline, I’m such an embarrassment, something is really wrong with me,” it brings about very negative feelings.

But how you feel has nothing to do with the failure itself. It has everything to do with your thoughts about it.

Your thoughts, what you are making the failure mean, that’s what causes the guilt and the embarrassment and the defeat and the hopelessness and the shame. Not the failure itself.

Learning how to change your perspective on “failure” is so very important.

Failure’s Definition

Maybe it’s time to simply define what failure is. Failure is the omission of expected or required action. It’s simply not honoring your commitment to yourself.

And when this happens, it gets ugly inside your head if you make it mean something terrible about you. Because those negative thoughts create negative emotions, and the more negative emotion you feel, you more you will act in whatever way you need to in order to hide from your negative emotions, which will cause you to never want to try again.

However, what if you decide that failure could be a teacher to you? What if the act of failure was NOT a state of being but rather just an event?

Being on the Path

Here is the key: failure is not the evidence that you are a failure; rather, it is an opportunity for you to use what happened to help you.

Failure is a stepping stone.

You and I are on a journey called life. We always are on the journey. Everything we do, all of our actions, including the ones that don’t work, all of them are leading us to the thing that will work for us as long as we are willing to open our eyes. We don’t need to tell ourselves that when we “fail,” we have to start all over.

We can use failure as an opportunity to learn how our brain works, how we think, what we make things mean, and we can start to shift and change that.

Does this make sense to you? Next time you perceive your result as a failure, try to reframe things so that you can see your results as a stepping stone to the next adventure.

I hope this blog post is useful for you. If so, make sure to share it with someone you love.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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